Utica, N.Y. (CBS CONNECTICUT) — Despite receiving numerous complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks says a “Happy Birthday Jesus” sign will not be taken down from outside Firehouse No. 4 in South Utica.
Brooks has received numerous letters asking he take down the “Happy Birthday Jesus, We Love You” sign the firehouse crew has put up outside the station each Christmas season for the past decade, WKTV reports. But Brooks is baffled why the national separation of church and state group has singled out the sign he says the firefighters started putting up after the 9/11 terror attacks.
“9/11 brought a lot of the guys closer to God, and they just wanted to show their faith in Jesus,” Brooks told WKTV. “They had no idea a controversy would arise.”
The FFRF said the organization was notified about the sign by a Utica resident who complained about it last year. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor released a statement saying, “About 20 percent of Utica citizens are nonreligious and others follow non-Christian faiths, and that includes Utica firefighters. The Utica Fire Department should not send them this exclusionary and alienating message.”
Brooks—who began receiving letters from the FFRF earlier this year — said most government organizations back down to threats from religious controversies, but his Firehouse No. 4 will not be one.
“Pledge of Allegiance has God in it, money has God on it,” he said. “This case isn’t unique.”
Brooks said several emergency services stations have similar displays, such as the New Hartford Fire Department’s manger scene, on their property. Brooks said he hired the Thomas More Law Center, which describes its mission “to restore and defend America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values,” should the FFRF pursue legal action to remove the “Happy Birthday Jesus” sign from the station.